Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Gordon Ahl
Monday, November 25, 2019, 2:07 PM

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer resigned Sunday at the request of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper because of Spencer's actions related to the case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher as a Navy SEAL, who previously was accused of war crimes in Iraq, reports the Washington Post. President Trump later indicated on Twitter that he will nominate Kenneth Braithwaite, who is currently the U.S. ambassador to Norway, as the next Navy secretary.

The New York Times reports that the Justice Department’s forthcoming inspector general report on the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation will not corroborate various conspiracy theories about Joseph Mifsud, the Steele Dossier or the FBI lacking sufficient evidence to open the investigation. The report is expected to criticize Kevin Clinesmith, a low-level lawyer at the FBI, for improperly altering documents to obtain court approval in the renewal of a wiretap of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Confidential research by the White House Counsel’s Office has uncovered documents that reveal acting chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney reached out to administration officials in search of an ex post facto explanation and legal justification for withholding aid to Ukraine after the president had already ordered the hold, according to the Post.

A series of State Department documents released on Friday show that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had at least two telephone conversations with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in March, reports the Times. These calls occurred in the time window when Giuliani was seeking investigations into the Bidens from Ukrainian officials.

The Times also reports that Rudy Giuliani’s work in Ukraine had another dimension: Giuliani sought information on the Bidens from powerful but vulnerable oligarchs who had legal issues in the United States.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, denied a CNN report that he met with the former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in Vienna in December 2018, according to the Post.

In local elections in Hong Kong, pro-democracy contenders were victorious in 347 of the 452 district council seats, with an unprecedented level of turnout. Some analysts attribute the high turnout and electoral gains by pro-democracy candidates to frustrations with Carrie Lam’s leadership and support for the protests, according to the BBC.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a former C.I.A. officer, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for conspiracy to offer classified information to the Chinese government, reports the Times. Prosecutors argued that Lee had received more than $840,000 for his work, but they were unable to determine whether he was involved in the disappearance of informants in China.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a recent wave of cyberattacks mostly targeted small scale utilities operating in 18 U.S. states.

ICYMI: Last Weekend on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared the latest episode of The Lawfare Podcast, in which Benjamin Wittes sat down with several Brookings and Lawfare experts to talk about last week’s impeachment hearings.

Sara Bjerg Moller commented on recent remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron about NATO and the transatlantic relationship.

Quinta Jurecic posted a series of State Department documents on Ukraine that were released following FOIA litigation from American Oversight.

Jacob Schulz posted a series of documents related to President Trump’s request for a stay of the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena for his tax returns.

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